RC Protocols Explained: PWM, CRSF, SBUS, DSMX, IBUS, PPM, FPort

RC Protocols Explained: PWM, CRSF, SBUS, DSMX, IBUS, PPM, FPort

When speaking about radio receiver (RX) and transmitter (TX) protocols, you’ll absolutely encounter some complicated acronyms like PWM, CRSF, SBUS, DSMX, FPort and so on. In this information, I’ll clarify all of the frequent RC protocols and the variations between them.

Table of Contents

An RC protocol is sort of a language spoken between elements. They are utilized in radio communication in our FPV drones, RC planes/wings and different radio managed automobiles. It’s necessary that you simply purchase issues which can be appropriate and converse the identical language, or they simply received’t work.

RC protocols could be divided into two teams:

  • RX Protocols – communication between the radio receiver (RX) and flight controller (FC)
  • TX Protocols – communication between the radio transmitter (TX) and RX

Some producers would possibly share some TX and RX protocols, however a lot of the occasions they use their very own protocols.

Communication between the radio transmitter and receiver is wi-fi. Manufacturers all have their very own TX protocols, some manufacturers even supply a number of protocols is dependent upon {hardware}. Here is a listing of frequent TX protocols:

  • ACCST (Frsky)
  • ACCESS (Frsky)
  • DSM (Spektrum)
  • DSM2 (Spektrum)
  • DSMX (Spektrum)
  • AFHDS (Flysky)
  • AFHDS 2A (Flysky)
  • A-FHSS (Hitec)
  • FASST (Futaba)
  • Hi-Sky (Deviation / Devo)

Frsky’s TX Protocols

Frsky has two TX protocols, ACCST and ACCESS. Note that for ACCST, there may be the older V1 and the newer V2, and the 2 are usually not appropriate.


  • D16: for X-series receivers, e.g. X4R-SB, R-XSR, XM+
  • D8: for D- and V-series receivers, e.g. D4R-II, D8R-II+, V8FR-II, VD5M, and so on
  • LR12: for the lengthy vary receiver L9R

ACCESS: Frsky’s newest air protocol, New Frsky Air Protocol – ACCESS

Spektrum’s DSM2 and DSMX

DSM2 and DSMX are the 2 TX protocols utilized by Spektrum radios.

DSM2 sign is thought to be proof against noise, interference and different transmitters transmitting on the identical frequency. It additionally finds a backup frequency at start-up in case the first frequency fails. This vastly lowers the prospect of dropping sign, nonetheless if each channels turns into unusable you should still lose the connection.

DSMX was based mostly on and improved from DSM2, which additionally makes use of the identical encoding scheme. The distinction is the DSMX sign is ready to change to a brand new frequency channel in case of reduce out inside a few milliseconds, so in principle you wouldn’t even discover the glitch.

DSM2 continues to be a well-liked expertise, in case you are away from sources of radio interference (akin to WiFi, microwaves, and wi-fi safety cameras), it ought to work simply in addition to DSMX, however DSMX for certain is extra dependable.

The communication between radio receiver and flight controller is wired. Some RX protocols are common and utilized in receivers from totally different manufactures, however some could be unique to sure manufacturers. Here is a listing of frequent RX protocols:

PWM stands for pulse width modulation, the size of the heart beat specifies the servo output or throttle place, and due to this fact it shares traits of each digital and analog alerts. The size of the sign pulse usually varies between 1000µs and 2000µs (micro seconds), with 1000µs being the minimal & 2000µs the utmost.

This is the commonest and fundamental radio management protocol. Back within the days when there was no flight controller, the receivers have been used to regulate the servos and ESC instantly with commonplace PWM sign.

The draw back of that is in all probability the wiring mess, as you may have one servo cable for each channel. And so PPM and SBUS are sometimes most popular over PWM when utilizing an FC, which move all of the channels by means of a single wire and but supply the identical efficiency if not higher.

PPM is also referred to as CPPM or PPMSUM. A PPM sign is principally a collection of PWM alerts despatched one after one other on the identical wire, and modulated in another way.

The benefit of PPM over PWM is that just one single wire is required for a number of channels. So sometimes, you’ll solely want to attach the bottom, energy and sign wires for as much as 8 channels.

As the channel values don’t arrive on the identical time, it’s not as correct or jitter-free as serial communications (which we’ll cowl in a minute).

A serial protocol is a digital loss-less protocol that makes use of solely 3 wires (sign, energy, floor) for a number of channels. Unlike PPM which is a sign in time area, serial protocols are fully digital which implies they’re made up of a bunch of 1’s and nil’s.

As the title suggests, serial protocols require a serial port on the flight controller (aka UART).


Aka S.BUS or Serial BUS, is often utilized by Futaba and FrSky. It helps as much as 16 channels utilizing just one sign wire. SBUS sign needs to be linked to the RX pin of an UART.

Note that the SBUS sign in Frsky’s receivers is inverted, and due to this fact (usually) on F1 and F4 FC, there are devoted SBUS enter which signifies there may be an inverter in place for the inverted SBUS sign. However for F3 and F7 FC’s, the processor has built-in inverters on all of their UART’s, and so you may join SBUS to any UART you need.

CRSF (Crossfire)

CRSF is developed by TBS for his or her Crossfire RC system. It’s just like SBUS or different digital RX to FC protocols.

The foremost benefits embrace quick replace price and two-way communication capabilities, permitting options akin to trouble free Telemetry to be injected into the radio hyperlink with no extra UART port required.

IBUS – By Flysky

IBUS is flysky’s serial protocol. It’s a two manner communication which implies it might probably ship and obtain information: one port for servo information output and one port for sensors.


XBUS is utilized by JR, which helps as much as 14 channels in a single sign wire. One of the benefits is the tiny time delay between every channel.

MSP (Multiwii Serial Protocol)

Protocol that was created as a part of the multiwii software program. Basically it means that you can use MSP instructions because the RC enter and it helps 8 channels in a single sign cable.


FPort is developed by Frsky and Betaflight builders. Normally, management sign and telemetry information requires separate connections, however FPort manages to mix them into one single bi-directional sign, which makes it extra compact and simpler to handle.

Unlike Frsky’s SBUS which is inverted, FPort is appropriate with F4 flight controllers UART with out extra inverters or hacks.

You can study extra about FPort and the best way to setup right here.

The selection of TX and RX protocols is just about decided/restricted by your {hardware}, as most receiver solely help sure TX and RX protocols.

If you might be shopping for a pre-built drone, then you definitely don’t have to fret about it in any respect. But in case you are constructing from scratch, then your determination would have an effect on what you must/can purchase. Just decide a radio transmitter you want, after which discover a appropriate receiver, ideally help one of many serial protocols.

Take a have a look at what gear I exploit on this put up.

We do not need the correct gear to check TX and RX latency but, however fortuitously our pal Dronemesh on Youtube have been doing this sort of testing for a lot of totally different sort of TX and RX.

In a radio management system, the latency occurs in a number of locations. There is latency between your sticks and the RF module on the TX (earlier than it’s transmitted by means of the air), between transmitter and receiver (sign travels at velocity of sunshine so virtually negligible), and likewise there may be latency between the receiver and your flight controller.

This is the testing consequence captured from one of many testing video:

  • Flysky i6X – 13.7ms
  • Turnigy Evolution – 14.6ms
  • Crossfire (on X10) – 19.5ms
  • Frsky Horus X10 – 31.5ms
  • Frsky QX7 – 36.3ms
  • Spektrum DX6i – 41.5ms

Of course, decrease latency is healthier, however I don’t assume that’s all the rationale in selecting a radio. You must also think about the reliability of the RC connection, the options of the radio and ergonomics. But actually, can 15ms additional latency have an effect on somebody’s flying? Maybe, possibly not.

And there may be hypothesis that the latency of the Flysky system truly will increase with vary whereas that of Frsky is extra constant. Hopefully somebody will take a look at and make sure.

Edit History

  • March 2015 – Article created for RX protocols
  • July 2017 – expanded checklist of TX protocols
  • Feb 2018 – added part about latency
  • Apr 2021 – up to date article